Pre-emptive outdoor library project takes hold

Stopsley outdoor Library – a project for the new era

Tracee Cossey

In the wake of possible government plans to cut library services, Stopsley Library staff have recently come up with a unique twist on how to promote theirs. As part of the ‘Big Wild Read’, a summer reading challenge in 2008, staff at the library developed their garden by planting a small bed with wild flowers which was occasionally used to tell stories. From this emerged the plan of turning it into a physical reading space.

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The garden project was funded through Generations Together, one of the twelve pilot projects across the country that aims to bring younger and older people together through a range of projects, from filmmaking to gardening.  In Luton, Generations Together is led by Luton Culture on behalf of Luton Borough Council.  As part of Luton Culture, Luton Libraries have contributed to the funding of Stopsley Library Reading Garden.

Aaron, a pupil studying construction at Stopsley High School, inspired his fellow pupils and their teacher to design and build a series of raised beds for the garden.  At three different heights, they make the plants accessible to everyone, and look great too.  Put together, their time and the materials they have used are a considerable donation.

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Around 50 children have been involved in the project from inception, from assisting with the design and planting, to hunting for minibeasts to entering a radish growing competition.With young people, older people and those in-between added in, around 130 people to date have either volunteered their time or taken part in an activity in the garden. The garden doubles the size of the library, with over twenty places to sit and read.

There are three areas in the garden, each based on a book theme and designed with a different generation in mind. The first area is based on passages in Jane Austen’s books, with comfy wooden seating, a brick bench and picnic table. The two patio areas in the first area are accessible and surrounded by climbing plants; this is a great place to sit and read. The second area incorporates an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme, where there are roses and lots of room to play.  The caterpillar from the stories has transformed into a butterfly play sculpture and a there is a story circle too.The last area is inspired by gothic fiction that includes Stephanie Meyer’s well-known ‘Twilight’ series.  Hidden around a corner are three giant tractor tyres, planted with spiky and dark foliage.

The garden was officially opened to the public by the Mayor on Saturday 17 July 2010, to coincide with the start of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – ‘Space Hop’. Stopsley Outdoor Reading Library is the only library in Luton that has a green space that can accommodate an outdoor library.

Anna Simmons, Senior Librarian for Luton Culture said: “Now officially open, there are still lots of opportunities to take part in the garden and in the wider Generations Together project.  A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party marked the first efforts to establish a friends’ group and a mailing list for an electronic and print newsletter is currently being compiled.


 

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From cradle to grave

THE MADHOUSE has been overrun and they have left a calling card. A toy plastic credit card.

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The Early Learning Center toy where your child can learn everything about money except for the fact that it is not real to begin with, or that the plastic your children are playing with actually has more intrinsic value than the digital numbers floating around the ether that determines whether people eat or not because it is the byproduct of a million years of fossilised flora and fauna.

The Early Learning Center toy comes complete with plastic money and credit card, where your child can learn about money and how to get in to debt with their plastic friend, not taking in to consideration the fact they were £73,000 in debt before they were even born. Of course, these toys are hardly new but there is something genuinely crazy about the way the world is going.

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A meme sprang up this month of a bag of 100 plastic pennies worth more than $3 (or £2 something) which questioned the sanity of paying more for fake money than the value of its real life equivalent.  I just could not get my head around this and thought it was an early April Fool’s, so I took to the Internet to find out the truth and this is when I found the new credit card toy from the Early Learning Center and had a mini meltdown.

If only I had just gone to bed.

The sad thing is that parents really feel that they are doing their kids a favour by purchasing this crap and calling it educational, but we cannot criticise because they mostly know no better themselves about the truth of money and so the cycle continues. It is a 360 degree immersive advertising campaign, designed to do one thing; ensure perpetual debt slavery.

The problem comes when people have become so embedded in the lie that it makes it hard for them to see the truth, that the monetary system they put so much trust in is just a ponzi scheme, built on debt and that mortgage defaults and bankruptcy are inherently built into it. The only reason it endures is because of the blind faith we as a society have put in it. It is the reason we have austerity, library closures, cuts and closures to our emergency services and privatisation of our NHS. You couldn’t make it up.

The first step to breaking free from our chains is to first see that we are imprisoned. A good start would be the group Positive Money, another would be this video by Peter Joseph from The Zeitgeist movement in 2008.

Right now I am going to get my head and just remember that “everything is awesome.”

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Library campaign grows, the truth is out there.

Standing in defiance both Doreen Steinberg and Claire Lee, the central figures in a community campaign against the closure of libraries central to their communities in Sundon Park, Wigmore and the mobile services, lead a protest outside the central library in Luton today. The public, angry at a consultation process they say was not fit for purpose, braved the wind, rain and cold to show the council and the community that they will not be silenced.

Doreen said: “I am determined to find the truth in all of this, the Luton Culture Trust are not answering the questions the public wants to know, hiding behind their status as a charity in doing so.”

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An iron lady worthy of the title

Last year Doreen, who with the help of another lady Janet, collected over 10,000 signatures from people in Wigmore opposed to the closure of their library, a vital community hub for people of all ages. The library in Wigmore formed a central part of the community, affording children a safe place to wait for their parents after school giving them access to books and the internet and for the elderly who take advantage of the social interaction with staff and each other, whilst the library in Sundon park was the only real cultural building of any significance. Both now sit empty.

What we are witnessing with the loss of these libraries is as what one member of the group described as “education apartheid” with the children from families less fortunate not being able to afford the internet, books or kindles at home being left behind. With austerity and the cost of living tightening its grip around the public’s purse strings, this gap will only further widen following these closures and they also disproportionately affect those seeking work but with no or limited internet access at home. The Luton Culture Trust repeatedly cite that these closures were the “least worst” option and that the reduction of £1.58m from their budget was contributing to this. Doreen said: “This trust receives money from the airport (London Luton) and it was meant to be used to safe guard against exactly this kind of thing happening and they refuse to explain where the money has been spent.”

The library campaign group have not finished and will continue to fight, they will be heard and they will get the answers they seek.

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You cannot silence an ideal

For more info go to: http://www.librariesoflutonarise.com and an online petition you can sign here.